Opinions were divided at a public meeting hosted on Sunday by Tim Gould, a member of Smyrna city council, where the brewery project in downtown Smyrna was discussed.
This meeting was filled with more brewery supporters compared to Wednesday town hall hosted by council member Austin Wagner. Only one person spoke in favor of the brewery at the previous meeting.
Before residents voiced their opinions on the brewery, Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton provided an explanation similar to what he had at City Hall on Wednesday about the city’s progress in working with StillFire Brewing .
To understand some of the history of the brewery, please see last week’s article item about the old town hall.
Norton said the city had not sold any land and had no contracts with StillFire. He reiterated that the city was still in the early stages of collaborating with StillFire.
Currently, the city has signed a non-binding letter of intent to sell an acre of land for $ 600,000. Norton said the $ 600,000 value acts as a placeholder because the city’s deal with StillFire is yet to be finalized.
Norton also selected a task force made up of council members and city residents, he said on Sunday.
The working group will deal with technical issues of the city center project and present its recommendations at a public hearing.
Norton said he heard more comments on the brewery issue than on any other issue.
The mayor also said he and council held two public hearings on the project with around 300-350 people commenting.
The overwhelming majority of people the mayor has heard from are in favor of the brewery and the entire development project, Norton said.
Last month, the council approved by 5-2 the construction of a three-story 250-space parking lot next to the police station north of the church on Atlanta Road.
Norton said the bridge will have free parking.
Council also approved the removal of the roundabout and the installation of a turning lane and traffic light at the corner of Powder Springs Street and Atlanta Road.
Georgia House Representative for District 42, Teri Anulewicz, was also present on Sunday and said she looked forward to the roundabout being removed.
She said that when the roundabout is closed, as she often says, there is no difference in traffic in the area. Moans could be heard among the audience when she said this.
Anulewicz continued, saying she had supported downtown redevelopment plans for years and was excited to see them come to fruition.
“I’m happy that we are eliminating a road and concrete and impermeable surfaces that we don’t need,” said Anulewicz. “I think this is a huge step forward for Smyrna and I’m really excited about it.”
Sara Lee Parker has lived with her family in Smyrna for over 20 years and has said she is ready for the coming change in the city.
“Every time we add to the downtown environment, it just gets better and better for our community,” Parker said. “We appreciate the growth, we appreciate what it has done for the value of our property… we love it. “
Parker said she didn’t understand what critics of the brewery’s plans meant when they said plans for the city’s downtown moved quickly.
“These plans were in preparation even before this administration,” she said. “It looks like these are the same 10 or 20 people who want to continually berate the current administration when we voted on this as a community. “
Parker refers to residents who voted in favor of SPLOST, which has funded many redevelopment projects.
Nikki Penda said she has observed how breweries in other metro Atlanta cities have revitalized those areas and drawn people to the city.
Penda said she also strongly supported the parking lot, as she said it was extremely difficult to find parking. She said the lack of parking in Smyrna made her reluctant to move to town, but the upcoming change excites her.
“I just think this overhaul is overdue for the type of city Smyrna wants to be,” Penda said.
On the other side, Joan Martin said she doesn’t think the city has been transparent when it comes to downtown plans.
“For example, my husband is on the mailing list to receive notices of all public meetings and council meetings, and he hasn’t received an email on any of the dates of the public hearings,” Martin said.
When council members responded by saying information about the public hearings is on the council’s website, Martin said she and others are not constantly checking the website and the city needs to provide notices. formalities on this type of information.
“In addition, yes, [the project] was rushed, ”Martin said. “The whole country was closed for 15 months, and the first two or three months after it opened … is that when they put this thing in place?” That does not make sense.
Martin says those who portray critics of the downtown redevelopment as opponents of change are wrong.
She also says she is concerned about the traffic and the lack of traffic study so far.
Norton previously said the city is waiting for schools to reopen to assess traffic because that would provide a more accurate picture of traffic.
Kathy Omaits said she was concerned about the mayor-appointed task force. She said that would likely be skewed in favor of the brewery.
Plus, she said she still had other questions about the brewery, like the design.
“The brewery has to go to a different location,” Omaits said. “There are other ways to generate income from this space and keep the property. “
When asked if there are alternatives to the brewery, Norton said two other breweries have approached the board about the land.
As the public questioned whether the council was willing to hear from the public on its own alternatives to brewing, Gould said the brewery’s proposal arose from the council who listened to public comment on the need for more activity. social organizations in Smyrna.
After the meeting, Gould said the city was trying to be as transparent as possible, holding town halls like those on Sunday and Wednesday and answering questions from the public.
Gould said over time the city will have more community dialogue.
He also said he is not aware of any data showing that the construction of the brewery is having a negative impact on the environment. He said if anyone had any information on the environmental impact they would like to see it.
Gould described the brewery as a potential “economic engine” for the downtown area. It will bring people and jobs to Smyrna, he thinks.
“There is data on other breweries where thousands of people come to the brewery each month and produce a lot of foot traffic,” Gould said. “I believe [StillFire] going to have 20 full-time jobs and more part-time jobs.
Norton said after the meeting that he wanted people to understand more than anything that the brewery is not a done deal yet. He has repeatedly emphasized that the city is only in the early stages of the project.
The mayor said his working group will meet for the first time tomorrow.
Asked about opponents of the brewery who fear the mayor appointing residents to the task force will make them biased in favor of the brewery, Norton said he named those residents based on their expertise.
“I picked the three citizen representatives I picked because they have specific expertise in building, landscape, architecture, marketing, that sort of thing,” Norton said. “You can’t involve everyone in every decision. “
Norton said once the task force presents its findings in a public hearing, it will modify its recommendations based on public comments.
No decision will be taken by the working group, he said.
The land for sale will be ceded by city council to the Downtown Development Authority. That transfer won’t happen until the city gets an assessment and conducts a traffic study, which has yet to be completed, Norton said.
Norton said there was no clear timeline for the completion of the downtown project, but estimated it could be completed in 2023.
The mayor said he was thrilled with the project and, like Gould, briefly discussed the economic benefits the brewery can create for the city.
“You’re going to have people who’ve never known Smyrna before, you’re going to have people from Smyrna who wanted this,” Norton said. “I think they will frequent restaurants and businesses, I think they will spend money in our stores… the tax impact on a package that is not taxed at the moment will be considerable and it will benefit to citizens because good. “
Arielle Robinson is an undergraduate student at Kennesaw State University. She is president of the university’s Society of Professional Journalists and editor at KSU Sentinel. She enjoys music, reading poetry and non-fiction books, and collecting books and records.